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DESPERATELY SEEKING RELEVANCE, ORCHESTRAS GRAPPLE WITH EXISTENTIAL QUESTIONS

“We need to ask ourselves if artistic excellence is the ultimate goal. Other things may be more important.”

She said it. Sitting on the stage of the Meyerhoff concert hall in Baltimore last week, the conductor Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, stated a question that’s been lurking around the edges of the orchestra world. That is: Is the main purpose of orchestras to play great music, as well as humanly possible? And if not, what is it?

Never before have our large institutions been subject to such a string of existential questions. How do we justify the continued existence of our [orchestras, newspapers, insert institution of your choice here]? How do we make these institutions relevant to an audience that is pulling away, finding other ways to get music and information? The scrutiny isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s shining a light on some unexpected baggage.

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Date of Publication: 
6/13/16